A pervasive misconception exists regarding the Christian concept of salvation. If you ask several different people, Believers or non-believers, how you get to Heaven, you’re likely to get several different answers. In truth, only one answer is correct. Christian salvation requires belief in Jesus. This means to confess him as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). Essentially it is to believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). That’s all there is to it.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. – Romans 10:10
Of course, salvation leads to new things in your life. The Holy Spirit will enter you, and your life will change accordingly. Walking the road on which salvation sets you may not always be easy. Still, the pass that gets you on that road is simply belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior. That sounds simple, but realistically we know it isn’t. If belief is what saves, then the world is trending towards destruction. Looking at the trends in today’s world, we see that Atheism is increasing. An article in Scientific American noted that polls show that in the eight years between 2007 and 2015, the number of people in America who claimed no religious affiliation rose from 36.6 million to 55.8 million. Members of the newest generation are particularly less likely to believe in God. What is responsible for this shift away from belief in God? If the key to paradise is as easy as believing in the Savior, why is it so difficult for us to do? It’s not lack of information. The Gospels are more accessible to a wider range of people in today’s world than they have ever been. Non-believers might point out that God doesn’t make it easy. They may question why, if he wanted us to believe in him, doesn’t he make himself known through more overt actions (in other words, on our terms)?
That’s a fair question, but when we read the Bible, we know that even when he did make himself known to his people, their faith wavered constantly. Consider the story of Moses and his efforts to lead the children of Israel. God used him to deliver the people of Israel from bondage. Over the course of that transition, God sent plagues to assault the Egyptians (Exodus 7:14-11:10), guided the people with columns of fire (Exodus 13:21-22), empowered Moses to split the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-28), rained food from the sky (Exodus 16), and performed a number of other miracles. After witnessing all of that, none of Israel should have ever doubted God, right? Well, Moses left for little more than a month to receive God’s commandments, and that’s all it took for the people to forget all God had done and turn to a false god of their own creation (Exodus 32).
To us as readers, that story may sound a little ridiculous. We can’t conceive of witnessing such miraculous events. Many who’ve read that story probably proclaimed that there was no way they would have turned away from God after witnessing such spectacles. Maybe the actions of the children of Israel do seem ridiculous, but are we really so much more steadfast? Is it really uncommon to hear a person give a testimony where they are sure God delivered them from one trial only to see them despair the very next time hardship arises? Humans in general seem to have short memories when it comes to what God does for us.
In truth, we have an advantage over the Israelites. Yes, they were witnesses to many great miracles. The problem is that miracles always end, and when you are in the midst of hardship today, yesterday’s miracle may not be of any comfort. We have access to something miraculous that does not fade. When we choose to follow Jesus, we gain access to the Holy Spirit. God takes up residence in us and we gain something that can help us to never doubt God again. Whenever our faith is tested we need only lean on the Holy Spirit and God’s presence and love will become unquestionable.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. – Romans 5:5
Despite all believers having access to the Holy Spirit, many of us do not make use of his presence when we are at our worst. Something blocks us from turning towards God for help and comfort. That ‘something’ could be our own misguided perceptions of what belief in God means. A common misconception about following God seems to persist amongst both believers and non-believers alike. Many think that believing in and following God is supposed to lead to prosperity and an end to life’s difficulties. Unfortunately, that is not the truth, and often when we’re faced with reality, the faith that we expressed when we first turned to Jesus is shaken. No matter how strong our faith in God is, we will all still face trials in life, be it financial woes, sickness, loss of loved ones, or any number of other hardships. Those are the times when our faiths are tested the most. They are also the times when we should let our faiths shine brightest. For example, when parents have to look into the eyes of a dying child knowing they can do nothing to stop what’s coming, turning to God is often little more than a last ditch effort. If God miraculously heals that child, then of course everyone will be overjoyed and their faith will stand strong. However, we know such an outcome is not always in His will. Sometimes that child will die, and the faith of those parents and others around will likely waiver. “Why would God take a child?” many will ask. We can all understand that reaction, but how much more amazing would it be if those parents were able to find and express solace through their faith in God? Many of us have questioned God at some point in our lives, particularly when we face losing someone or something important here in this world. That’s why the Bible warns us against seeing things from an earthly standpoint (Colossians 3:2).
It’s not that God doesn’t want us to love our families or enjoy some of the pleasures this world has to offer. He absolutely does. The problem comes when we begin to love things down here more than Him. When we do that, we have trouble accepting His will. As Jesus taught, you cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). It’s impossible for us to maintain a strong faith in God when we put so much above him. Those parents in the previously mentioned example can only understand the pain of losing their child. It’s difficult for them to accept that God’s will might be right under such circumstances. For them, praising him for that will being done is hardly a thought. As we grow as Believers, as hard as it may be, we have to learn to maintain the same attitude towards God through our ups and downs. Life can be hard, but if we allow the hardships to turn us to God rather than let them lead us to questioning Him, things may be easier for us. When Stephen was being stoned to death, he could have let the fact that he was being subjected to such a horrible fate lead him to doubt. Instead, he turned to God at that most dire time, and God put him to sleep sparing him the pain that would come with his death (Acts 7:54-59). We need to understand that hard times give us a chance to strengthen our faith. When we are going through the worst situations, we have a opportunity to put everything in God’s hands and let him pull us through. He may not always work things out the way we expect, but he will do what’s best for us, and he’ll do it in a way that brings Himself glory. As Believers, God being glorified is something we should always desire. Maintaining a strong faith in God is not always an easy thing, but if we hold onto the Holy Spirit and learn to trust God through the good times and the bad, we will be able to remain steadfast in our beliefs regardless of our circumstances. What does not kill us makes us stronger.